Using full KDE, meaning the KDE environment and all KDE applications, I have learned about the various applications and their usage. After using it for a week, what have I found?
KDE by far offers the best integrated experience. Just about all applications integrate into each other, which in many ways is good, although, there are problems.
The overall functionality (not functions) of many of the programs are not complete. For example, the default web browser Konqueror, has many features, and works great as a file manager. However, as a web browser, the quality is somewhat lacking. May web pages, depending on how the site you are visiting is built, it may have too many “web 2.0” features to load correctly in Konqueror. Sometimes, you enter a link, or are loading two pages at once, and either one or both pages will fail to load. Given, the plug-in downloader works perfectly, although in the end, Konqueror is difficult to use as a web browser, with pages that will not load every time. I have written in my previous post about this page incompatibilities in Google Docs, although other Google services have basic functionality through Konqueror.
Kontact is a good program with many different features. Once again, features get in the way of functionality. One specific example is the KMail application. While KMail has many features and shows itself as a powerful application, configuring it to work with your email may not be as easy as it could be. Basically, KMail is not one of those “automatically configured” email programs such as GNOME’s Evolution mail reader. It is the small features, such as those found in the Calendar application which make it difficult to add web calendars, really can make using the system harder.
In my opinion, the KDE project is large, perhaps so large that resources are stretched too thin in respect to the applications. This comes down to application choice. In my mind, using Firefox for the web browser, and perhaps another application for email such as Thunderbird, provides a smoother desktop experience. I personally believe Konqueror is lacking as a web browser is because it plays the role of web browser and file browser. This kind of functionality deserves two applications. Working with GNOME, Nautilus is the file browser, and Epiphany is the web browser. This separation in projects shows itself to be beneficial when using both programs, as they are equally suited to do the job that they were designed to do.
KOffice is another example of features over functionality, although keep in mind this is the 1.6.3 release I am talking about, not the 2.0 release made for KDE 4 which is much better than the previous Version.
My reasoning behind the problems found in KDE are either:
1) Resources stretched too thin on development (possibly due to KDE 4)
2) There are too many features to be supported well.
KDE 4 is on a good track, and although it is not finished or complete, it is much better than KDE 3. Konqueror has been moved to a web-browser only (although it can be used as a file browser in KDE 4 as well) status in the applications, and Dolphin has become the new default file browser. I hope this means that Konqueror will be improved greatly over the next several months.
In conclusion, KDE is not a bad desktop environment, and is perfect for the power user or Linux geek who wants to use all of the features and make the system perform in a certain way. There are also many applications that are the best applications in their category, such as Amarok, which is arguably the best music player for Linux. K3B is also one of the best CD burning applications available for Linux as well. There also educational applications for astronomy, math, chemistry, and a various other subjects, and really the only choice for educational applications for Linux. KDE is a good choice for a desktop environment, even in the face of several issues. KDE 4 is going to be even better than KDE 3 once it is complete, or stable, at least. Many distributions actually make customized versions of desktop environments and add improvements and features, and Kubuntu is no exception with Restricted Manager, and Adept Package Manager. From my experience with using a straight-up KDE installation on a basic Ubuntu Server installation, Kubuntu gives a basic KDE experience, and after switching out OpenOffice.org for KOffice, you will have the KDE-only system that I have mentioned here.
Soon, I will test working in a GNOME desktop environment, with all default GNOME applications. Which distribution I will use (possibly Foresight or Debian…) is yet to be determined. Will the features be too limited? I will find out soon enough!